Enjoying a sleepful semester

This fall, many students are excited to be back on campus (or nearby) to enjoy an in-person college experience once again. As we delve into this semester, it is important to recognize the little ways in which academic performance and overall well-being can be improved. One significant component of a healthy college career that is often lacking (if we are honest with ourselves) is sleep.

Throughout the summer, many students adjust to various work, family, and personal sleep schedules. It is not uncommon that sleep may vary day by day during the summer months. However, now that Greensboro College students are back to academics, athletics, extracurriculars, and work-study, a normal sleep schedule becomes increasingly crucial.

In one American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) article, Dr. Clete A. Kushida states that being routinely tired during the daytime in classes or other activities is an indicator that a student is not getting enough sleep. He goes on to say that sleep quantity and quality are two equally important factors that affect the degree of daytime alertness.  

What are the consequences of poor sleep quality or quantity for students, you may ask? The same AASM article describes how college students with insomnia have significantly more mental health problems than those without insomnia, and poor sleep quantity or quality is shown to affect grades in math, reading, and writing courses.  

Some students may dispute these facts by saying that they stay up late on school nights but make up for it on the weekends. This, however, has also been proven to lead to decreased academic performance because it makes it more difficult to readjust one’s biological clock to an earlier wake time at the start of the new week.  

There are numerous, feasible ways to improve your sleep hygiene this semester. One tip is to identify your own personal sleep needs, as this varies between individuals.  

Some students may need a full eight hours of sleep each night to function optimally, while others may need less. In order to make this determination, sleeping without an alarm one night will help you discover your body’s natural rhythm.  

Regular exercise (30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 5-7 hours before you go to bed) will also benefit sleep quantity and quality. Winding down before bedtime, such as by reading a book with a cup of decaffeinated tea or journaling your thoughts from the day, without the distractions of Netflix or TikTok, is something most college students can easily change to improve sleep.  

Other tips offered universally by many sources include avoiding caffeine at night, maintaining a dark bedroom, and creating a consistent sleep schedule. We can all benefit from better sleep. My advice is to identify where you can make doable adjustments, so you are sure to have a successful and healthy semester!

By Carly Uhlir

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